Cantor Melanie Blatt

Cantor Blatt recently was ordained by Hebrew College and serves Beth El Congregation as Cantor Educator and Director of Community Engagement.  In this new position, she works closely with the clergy to enhance congregational life. Cantor Blatt has also been working to build the Chesed program, which supports congregants when they need it most.

Cantor Blatt has a Bachelor’s Degree in Fire Protection Engineering from University of Maryland College Park with a Scholars Citation of the Arts.  She has also earned a Master’s Degree in Jewish Education, Leadership, and Communal Service from Baltimore Hebrew Institute at Towson University and a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies from Hebrew College.  Cantor Blatt has performed for audiences all over the country including President Obama at the White House.  She also has a background in dance, movement, meditation, and has been a certified personal trainer since 2010.

Ezra Bookman

Ezra is a director, poet, performance artist, ritualist, and experience designer, exploring the intersection of arts and spirituality. He is the Artistic Director for Lab/Shul, an experimental, artist-driven, God-optional, pop up community for sacred Jewish gatherings in NYC; the creator of Ritualist, a transformational experience design studio for more vibrant and healthy organizations; and the youngest member on the Board of Directors of The Secret City, an Obie Award-winning arts organization. Ezra earned his B.F.A in Theater Studies at Southern Methodist University under the guidance of Stan Wojewodski, where he was awarded the prestigious Meadows Scholar Award. He used the award’s grant to live with Shamans and indigenous communities in Ecuador, Columbia, and Venezuela, researching tools for training artists to create more spiritually connected experiences.

Vanessa Hidary

She is an Internationally acclaimed Spoken Word Artist/Solo Performer/Author/ Actress/Writer/Director, grew up on Manhattan’s culturally diverse Upper West Side. Her experiences as a Sephardic Jew with close friends from different ethnic and religious backgrounds inspired her to write “Culture Bandit” the nationally toured solo show that chronicles Vanessa’s coming of age during the golden age of Hip-Hop.

“Culture Bandit” was originally produced by LAByrinth Theatre Company (Artistic directors; Phillip Seymour Hoffman and John Ortiz). It has since played at Nuyorican Poets Café, The Downtown Urban Theater Festival, The Los Angeles Women’s Theater Festival, The Hip Hop Theatre Festival, The Revolutions Theatre Festival inAlbuquerque, New Mexico, The Philadelphia Fringe Festival, Makor Arts Center in the “Hip-hop without Borders” festival and The Comedy Central Stage in Los Angeles.

She has aired three times on “Russell Simmons Presents ‘Def Poetry Jam’ on HBO, and is featured in the award winning film “The Tribe” which was selected for the Sundance Film Festival, The Tribeca Film Festival, and The Jewish Motifs International Film Festival in Warsaw, Poland. Vanessa was chosen as one of 50 speakers to appear at the “2010 IdeaCity – Canada’s Premiere Meeting of the Minds”.  She has appeared at numerous LIMMUD conferences including South Africa and the UK, and has been a featured speaker at the Lion Of Judah conference at the Jewish Federation’s General Assembly convention in New Orleans, and at Tribefest in Las Vegas.

Her popular poem, “The Hebrew Mamita,”went viral garnering over half a million YouTube hits, igniting widespread discussion among Jews and non Jews alike regarding the subject of identity. She has conducted poetry and racism workshops with youth groups such as BBYO, The Yeshiva of Flatbush High school, Congregation B’nai Tikvah Of New Jersey, Harlem School Of The Arts, among others.

Other performances include: Central Park’s Summerstage, NBC’s 9/11 tribute “Concert For America,” B.A.M. Café, Princeton University, Cornell, Syracuse, NYU, U Of Florida, SUNY Purchase, USC and countless other schools around the nation.

​Vanessa developed and directed in conjunction with Birthright Israel NEXT, the show  “MONOLOGUES”: An evening of solo performances by 15 young adults, exploring their Jewish Identity, inspired by a 10-day trip through Israel. Over a two-year period, the show traveled around the United States, engaging thousands along the way.

Inspired by “MONOLOGUES”  in July 2015 Vanessa created The Kaleidoscope Project., Kaleidoscope is a narrative-arts driven initiative that was sparked by a desire to highlight the stories of Jews of diverse racial and ethnic backgrounds, observance levels, and interfaith experiences. In partnership with UJA, the 14th Street Y, and Be’chol Lashon, Kaleidoscope presented the Kaleidoscope Monologue Showcase to sold out audiences over a three-day period in mid-July 2015.

​Vanessa received an M.F.A. in Acting from Trinity Rep Theatre Conservatory. She is a member of SAG and AFTRA. She lives in Manhattan, where she published her first collection of poems and stories called “The Last Kaiser Roll in the Bodega.”​


Sarah Gershman

Sarah Gershman is an executive speech coach and president of Green Room Speakers, a communications consulting firm based in Washington, DC.  Sarah is an adjunct professor of communications at the McDonough School of Business at Georgetown University where she lectures to students from around the world.

Sarah has coached and trained executives and staff at a variety of national organizations, companies and federal agencies. Recent clients include: Microsoft, General Dynamics, GDIT, Gulfstream, Kaiser Permanente,  Booz Allen Hamilton, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy, the Office of the Secretary of Defense for Intelligence, the US Department of Justice, The US General Services Administration, the US Department of Commerce, the Asia Group, the Brunswick Group, GH Smart,  SBSB, Eli Lilly, The U.S. Department of Treasury Executive Institute, POET, RTI International, HOK, the National Governor’s Association, ONE. the Truman National Security Project, the Brookings Institute, the World Bank, the Robin Hood Foundation, the Hudson Institute, Guardicore, the Kauffman Foundation, KCCT Architects, Hickok Cole Architects, RAND Construction, the American College of Cardiology, the American Psychology Association, Govini, OATH, and So Others Might Eat (SOME).

Sarah combines more than 20 years of facilitating and teaching with a strong background in theater and the performing arts.

Sarah has a Masters in Social Work from Columbia University and a Masters in Judaic Studies from the Jewish Theological Seminary.  Sarah received graduated Phi Beta Kappa from the Johns Hopkins University.

Ilana Kaufman

She is the Director of the Jews of Color Field Building Initiative. She formerly worked as the Public Affairs and Civic Engagement Director, East Bay, for the San Francisco, CA-based Jewish Community Relations Council. She has twenty years of leadership, community building and organizational development experience. As a strategic designer, planner and problem solver, Ilana is regularly engaged by regional and national Jewish federations, community relations organizations, philanthropic entities and community service providers. She has been featured in the Jewish Times of America and the J Weekly, and has published articles the Forward, eJewish Philanthropy, The Foundation Review and Independent School Magazine. A nationally regarded thought leader on the importance of grappling with race and racism in the Jewish community, Ilana was featured in the series “ELI Talks: Inspired Jewish Ideas” in 2015 and was recognized by both the Jewish Multiracial Network and the New York Public Library Blog Celebrating African American Jews for Black History Month in 2016.

Daniel Langenthal

Daniel is the Director of the Leadership Development Institute. He is an experienced educator, whose approach to human and organizational growth is informed by values of openness, engagement, reflection, team-building, and empowering others. As an experiential educator, his professional practice helps facilitate growth through active learning that helps identify obstacles and engages participants working together to find solutions. He has worked as a trainer, consultant, and educator with a wide array of clients from businesses to non-profit organizations, including working with teachers and youth-at-risk in both the US and Israel.

In his most recent role, as the Director of Experiential Learning and Teaching at Brandeis, he worked with faculty to help them incorporate active and reflective learning into their teaching. Prior to that, Daniel founded and directed MABAT, an Israeli non-profit dedicated to improving intercultural awareness among all Israeli citizens through experiential and diversity programming at Israeli colleges and universities. Daniel also served in the IDF, as a tour guide for the Society for Protection of Nature in Israel and as an Outward Bound instructor.

Daniel’s graduate education at Brandeis University earned him an MBA from the Heller School of Social Policy Management and an MA from the Hornstein Program in Jewish Professional Leadership. He also earned an MS in Outdoor Education from the University of New Hampshire. He volunteers with numerous non-profit organizations both Jewish and non, locally, nationally and in Israel.


Ako Changa Onyango
Lead Facilitator, Signal Fire, LLC
Senior Facilitator, AO Services, LLC

Changa is a professional facilitator and state trained Mediator. His work covers a variety of subjects including diversity, equity and inclusion in the context of organizational change, historic context of inequity, and the business case for change. Changa is also an advocate for cultural preservation and produces Music & Arts content and events that uplift the ideals of Identity and Generational Justice.

He is Owner of AO services LLC, an organizational development consultancy and a Lead Facilitator for Signal Fire, LLC, which focuses on DEI in business environments. He also serves as a coach with the University of Maryland’s Positive Schools Center where his specialty is DEI training/implementation in school communities. He is a contributing columnist on culture and community, a Baltimore City grassroots organizer and a father of 6 with his wife of 21 years, Maya.

Claire Tesh, M. Ed. 

Claire is the founder and principal of LMNO Educational Consulting. She has worked in the education field for over 25 years and formerly headed the public education division of the American Immigration Council. As a former public school teacher and adjunct professor, she understands education from the classroom, community and boardroom perspectives. Before entering the world of education, she worked in advertising and global marketing.

LMNO Educational Consulting assists organizations dedicated to diversity, equity and inclusion to adopt and adapt innovative strategies. Claire works with non-profits, museums, universities and K-12 schools and corporations, assisting in creatively designing public education campaigns, engagement and public relations initiatives, strategic planning, and professional development and multicultural education workshops.

To learn more about Claire and LMNO Educational Consulting (or to stay in touch) please visit


Julie Wohl

As a Jewish educator and an artist, Julie Wohl can usually be found teaching or painting.  She recently moved to Maryland and is thrilled to have joined the CJE as their new Family Engagement Specialist.  She received her Master’s Degree in Jewish Education from the Jewish Theological Seminary before working in a variety of synagogue, communal and camp settings.  She is the co-author and illustrator of  Siddur Mah Tov: a Family Shabbat Prayer Book as well as the illustrator of Simply Seder: a Family  Haggadah, and the creator of the recently published Make, Create, Celebrate! Jewish Holidays through Art, all published by Behrman House.  Julie is the founder of Jewish Learning thru Art, a traveling creative arts beit midrash where she combines her background in Jewish education and art to help communities to create meaningful large-scale communal murals. Julie is married to Rabbi Josh Wohl and they are the proud parents of two sons.

Sara Wolkenfeld

Sara Wolkenfeld is the Director of Education at Sefaria, a new online database and interface for Jewish texts. She is passionate about helping people access Jewish texts and connect with the sources that inform Jewish life and tradition. Sara is also a fellow of the David Hartman Center at the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America. Her previous experience includes serving as Director of Education at the Center for Jewish Life – Hillel at Princeton University as part of the Orthodox Union’s Jewish Learning Initiative on Campus. She studied Talmud and Jewish Law at various institutions of Jewish learning in Israel and America and speaks frequently at synagogues, schools, and university communities. She lives in Chicago with her husband and their five children.




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